This might well be a transitional period for the TNA wrestling franchise, with new faces and new talent flooding its roster, but one ever-present is seemingly here to stay.
Bobby Roode might be short on friends in his on-screen role as the company’s most prominent villain, but in reality his determination, drive to succeed and passion for the professional wrestling industry are close to unrivalled.
It has been a rollercoaster couple of months for the self-proclaimed ‘It Factor’ of the sport. After a long-standing undefeated streak came to an end against Kurt Angle at Genesis shortly after the turn of the year, Roode threatened to walk away from the company all-together.
But he had his head turned by company president Dixie Carter, who offered him a 10% ownership stake in TNA if he successfully captained a four-man team to Lethal Lockdown victory against mystery investor, MVP.
Carter and Roode were then double-crossed in shocking fashion, as Bully Ray returned to help Team MVP claim victory – crashing a beaten Roode through a table in the process. With MVP now in control of TNA’s wrestling operations, it feels like the start of a new era for the company.
Over the last year, TNA’s future has been cast into doubt by a fall in event attendance, but the company has moved quickly to address any such issues – bringing in fresh talent such as MVP, the Wolves, Sanada, Tigre Uno and the returning Bobby Lashley – while more established names such as Hulk Hogan, Sting and AJ Styles have departed.
Roode was also quick to squash any such rumours over TNA's future with his appraisal of the encouraging state of the company: “There are a lot of changes going on right now,” he explained.
“I believe these changes have been a good thing. Lockdown was a really solid pay-per-view event and TNA is moving in a positive direction.”
The rivalry between Roode and Angle, which began at Bound for Glory last year, has played a big part in the company’s recent revival, and the 37-year-old Canadian explained why he has nothing but respect for the Olympic Gold Medallist.
“Kurt was a guy that I wanted to wrestle against for a very long time. To me, Kurt’s possibly the greatest professional wrestler that’s ever been in this business.
"He’s a little older now, a little bit worn down, but Kurt Angle is Kurt Angle and he’ll go out there every single night and outperform everybody.
“I knew I had my hands full, I knew I had to go out there and I had to step up and bring myself up to a Kurt Angle level. I think I did that and he and I had some great matches.
“I was disappointed with the way it ended. I was hoping that we could continue on and have at least one more match together. We were both hoping that we would have an Iron Man match, but with his knee injury it just didn’t happen. Hopefully it will happen somewhere down the road.”
The reoccurrence of a long-standing knee injury during TNA’s UK Tour has left Angle requiring surgery, but has left Roode facing an intriguing new rivalry with Bully Ray.
The former two-time World Heavyweight Champion has mostly been away from the spotlight since his Aces & Eights stable collapsed last year, but he returned in a big way at Lockdown.
“There’s obviously going to be some answers I have to find out from Bully Ray,” said Roode. “I think that’s priority number one – settling the score with Bully and finding out where this has all come from.
“I have a lot of respect for Bully [off-screen]. As two former World Champions and guys that have helped carry this company for a long while, I think that when we clash there’s going to be some very entertaining matches and a very entertaining storyline, so I’m looking forward to it.”
At the Lockdown event in Miami, TNA fans were also treated to an ‘international tag team match’ that starred several Japanese wrestlers from the Wrestle-1 promotion.
A ‘talent exchange’ scheme between the two companies has already seen Sanada claim TNA’s X Division title, and an intriguing partnership looks to be developing.
“For me personally it’s extremely exciting,” Roode explained. “I’m a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, the culture, the wrestling fans, and the style of wrestling over there.
“I had the opportunity to go over there and be a part of the first show that we did together a couple of weeks ago, in Tokyo. It was a lot of fun and I think it was great for both companies. I think moving forward it’s going to be a very positive thing.
“Sanada, our current X Division Champion, is super talented and a guy that the North American wrestling fans, and the fans all over the world, including in the UK, are going to find very exciting and a guy they’re going to want to get behind and cheer for. He brings a different style, he’s very innovative, and I think he’s got a very big future here.”
Of course, one of TNA’s longest standing international partnerships is right here in the UK. And Roode, who has been with the company on each and every one of its six annual tours of Britain, revealed how rewarding such trips can be: “Every year they get better and better. This year was a great tour for the company and a great tour for me personally.
“It was a heck of a grind, recording six television shows,” Roode added, who starred in matches with MVP and Samoa Joe, as well as a six-man tag match. “I don’t think everybody knows exactly how much goes into those shows, especially when you do it all in three consecutive days.
"It was a grind but I think they came off very successfully. We’re going back again next year and that’s something everyone always looks forward too, so hopefully we’ll be able to make it even better.”
Roode has actually been part of TNA since 2004, making him one of the company’s longest serving wrestlers. He has enjoyed huge success with the company over the last decade, becoming its longest reigning World Champion between October 2011 and July 2012. He has also won five World Tag Team titles, including four with James Storm, his partner in the famous duo known as Beer Money Inc.
Speaking about his time with the company Roode revealed his own personal highlights: “Early on, it was just getting my first break here in TNA, being a part of Team Canada, and then being a part of this company and being able to watch it grow – that is probably one of my fondest memories. It’s still growing today so being a part of that is a big highlight of my career.
“Obviously winning the World Heavyweight Championship is right up there, probably at the top of the list, and also being successful in tag team wrestling. Just being a successful wrestler period and being able to put my name in the same sentence with Kurt Angle and being able to perform with Hulk Hogan and guys like Sting and Jeff Hardy – the highlights continue to keep coming in.
“My career isn’t even half over yet, I feel like I’ve got a lot of good years left so hopefully those highlights can still keep coming in.”
Despite his long-term success in pro wrestling, Roode used to harbour ambitions of becoming a star in a different sport: “I was growing up in Canada and I always wanted to be a pro athlete when I got older. I didn’t really have any other passions. I love hockey, I played it growing up, but every kid in Canada wants to grow up and be a professional hockey player.
“You get to a certain point, a certain age and a certain level when you realise you’re not going to be able to go much further and make money and make a career out of hockey.
“I was always a wrestling fan from the time I was seven or eight years old. I watched wrestling every single weekend and whenever it was on television. I just grew up a huge fan. So when my hockey career was over I started training in wrestling and the rest is history. I’ve just continued on from there and it’s been a great ride.
Roode was also quick to defend his industry, and explained why he has traded one sport for another: “Wrestling has no off-season. If you look at entertainment and you look at any other sport everybody has an off-season. There’s never a television show that runs 52 weeks a year, there’s down times in the summer.
“Hockey season – there’s a season – baseball season, basketball season, football season – wrestling is 365 days a year, we don’t have any down time. I’ve been doing this at TNA, 365 days a year, on the road pretty much every single week for the last eleven years. Yes, its entertainment and we love to entertain the fans, but you have to remember that we put our bodies through hell. I mean, it’s a crime, the travel and the physicality, so yes definitely it’s a sport.
“Wrestlers are a different breed. You ask a football player. There are a lot of football players who have tried to be professional wrestlers and they’ve failed because they can’t take it. Wrestlers are a different breed and I don’t think people understand that, we’re tough; we’re as tough as they come.
“The bumps and bruises they hurt,” he reasoned. “Especially when you’re a wrestler who is doing six shows in three days, that’s a lot for your body to take. We did that at the end of January over in the UK and that’s not even counting the 10-11 hours of travel.
“While I’m away from the ring I just try to have some down time. I try to just shut my head down and try not to think too much while I’m home. I have family, who are important to me as well so when I’m at home I’m at home and when I’m on the road then it’s all business.”
He really has never looked back since breaking into the business, and is incredibly driven to be the best possible wrestler he can be. His is a life dedicated to the sport that he loves, and it is that dedication that sets him apart from your average wrestler.
“I spend countless hours in the gym,” Roode explained. “I also spend countless hours away from the gym studying films, studying wrestling. If you’re breaking into the business then it takes hours and hours and hours of training to get to where you are, to get to where I’m at and to get to where everybody on the roster is at.
“The one thing I can say personally is that I still continue to want to learn, I continually want to get better, I still study matches from the past. Even matches that are going on right now, like in Japan, I want to just keep getting better and better and that’s what I like to think separates me from everybody else.
“I want to become a World Champion again, and to prove why I was the greatest World Champion that this company has ever had. I want to continue to have great matches, to continue to entertain the fans. I want to help bring in new fans to this company and make the TNA brand grow to be bigger and better.”
You can see Roode in Glasgow, Manchester and London when TNA returns to the UK in January 2015 – tickets are available now!
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